TULLOW have re-established rugby bragging rights over local arch-rivals Carlow following a hard fought Leinster League victory at the Black Gates on Sunday.
The Slaneysiders’ win came almost totally via their dominant scrum. They never actually crossed the Carlow line, their 16 points coming from a scrum-related penalty try plus three penalties kicked by out-half William Canavan.
For their part, Carlow defended strongly but their promising backline was starved of possession for most of the game.
The visitors scored first. Almost from the kick-off Tullow were penalised for holding on and Carlow captain Ritchie Whyte slotted over the kick to put the visitors 3-0 ahead. Within three minutes Tullow were up to the Carlow line and the Oak Park side was penalised for pulling down a moving maul. Despite this being a very kickable penalty, especially for Tullow’s William Canavan, the home side signalled their intent by opting for a scrum.
Four times the teams packed down with Tullow getting additional penalties. The visitors were under desperate pressure but somehow they survived and forced a Tullow knock-on when the ball went out to the Tullow backs.
However the relief was short lived. On 15 minutes Tullow were awarded another penalty at a scrum 35 metres out from the Carlow posts. This time Canavan kicked his goal to make it 3-3.
Back in September when Carlow beat Tullow 12-3, the Carlow backs looked potent. Again on Sunday scrumhalf Isaac Daly and winger Fionnan Burke made good breaks but didn’t have enough support on hand to convert these into scores.
But 35 minutes into the game the visitors were again under the cosh with a series of messy inconclusive scrums on their own line. However the referee was in no doubt that Carlow were at fault and loosehead Larry McGrath paid the price and was sinbinned.
Tullow continued to opt for scrums and while the home side never actually crossed the Carlow line with the wheeling scrums, the referee eventually lost patience and ran in under the posts to award the home side an automatic seven-pointer penalty try.
The home side started the second half 10-3 ahead and immediately this was stretched to 13- 3 when Tullow’s Joe Waters forced a turnover penalty straight from the kick off.
Canavan kicked another penalty within minutes to give the Black Gates side a substantial 13-point advantage.
The Tullow scrum seemed to lose some of its power when Kilcoyne and Waters were substituted and the powerful Stephen Smith went off with an injury. The visitors came more into the game. Carlow players made a number of breaks, the most promising of which came from Wes Shirley who was hauled down near the Tullow posts.
The two Mullins, Darragh at full-back and Martin at six, also made clean breaks. Thirty minutes into the half Carlow eventually broke the Tullow defence when slick handling from Millward and Whyte was finished by David McDermott. Whyte’s conversion came back off the post to leave Carlow still eight points adrift: 16 -8.
However momentum had shifted in favour of the visitors who were getting more possession. More breaks by Jeff McDermott and Millward lacked supporting runners but the pressure led to Tullow conceding kickable penalties. Full-back Willie O Brien was yellow carded. Ritchie Whyte was wide with a penalty attempt 12 minutes from time but succeeded two minutes later to earn Carlow a losing bonus point.
While Carlow pressed hard for a winning score in the final 10 minutes, Tullow held out relatively comfortably.
When it comes to nominating a man of the match, the leading candidates were Tullow number 10 Canavan and loosehead prop Scott Caldbeck.
Speaking after the game Tullow coach Maurice Logue said that he was relieved to have won the local derby.
“Our players showed up and dominated the set pieces. In Carlow in September we missed some front line players. Today we had them back and they made a difference.”
Carlow coach Steve Ashmore praised his side’s defence but regretted not getting more possession. “We were decimated in the scrums but in the second half when we had more possession we showed that we could make progress.”
Tullow: William O’Brien, Ryan O’Neill, Keiaho Bloomfield, Shane Rohan, Richard Nichols, William Canavan, Dylan Leybourne, Scott Caldbeck, Sam Corrigan, Louis Kilcoyne, Joe Waters, John Hanbidge, Kyle Hanbidge, James O’Brien, Stephen Smith. Subs: Jordan Leybourne, Aaron Byrne, Jack McDonald, Sean Doyle, Philip Deane
Carlow: Darragh Mullins, Fionnan Burke, David McDermott, Ritchie Whyte, Jeff McDermott, Fiach Millward, Isaac Daly, Larry McGrath, Evan Gordon, John Lyons, Wes Shirley, Thomas Whitney, Martin Mullins, John Murphy, Ross Elmes. Subs: John Farrell, Owen Edgehill, Sam Dunne, Sam Cullen, John Whyte